Stopping Too Soon

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16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. – Luke 4: 16-20

Luke places this scene at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and it ends with the people of Nazareth attempting to throw him down a cliff and kill him.  Much of the crowd’s anger stems from Jesus’ use of Isaiah 61.  It’s where he stops that bothers them in his reading of the prophet.  Right after the line “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” comes the line “and the day of vengeance of our God” (Is.61:2b).  In the crowd’s minds there was to be favor for them and vengeance for their enemies, namely the Romans, who had viciously oppressed them.  Heck, according to the following lines of Isaiah, the Romans were going to become their slaves, they were going to become their shepherds, their farmers and vinedressers.  Jesus stops too soon and doesn’t read these following verses from Isaiah.  In so doing, Jesus gives a glimpse of what his ministry will look like.  He’s come not to bring vengeance but to proclaim the year of Lord’s favor which translates into actions of mercy, love and forgiveness.  It consists not in tearing down but in restoring people and the creation to their proper places.   Unfortunately, for the people of Nazareth, Jesus stopped too soon.  While they liked the idea of jubilee for themselves, they didn’t like it for their enemies as well.   Yet God loves all people, “for He is kind to the grateful and the evil.”

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